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Discoloration of immersion tin plating

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Q. I am running an immersion tin plating line currently. Tin is plated onto Copper surface. Recently we encountered discoloration issue with various severity. The tin plating solution is MSA based.
The Copper surface is plating with tin just after an aggressive etching process.

Anybody has similar experience to mine?

What could have gone wrong in the tin plating line besides the possibility that the Copper surface is not even or clean?


consumer electronics mfgr. - Singapore

Ed. note: When in Rome ...
We ask that posters use their real names in keeping with the site's tradition of aloha, peer camaraderie, and mutual assistance since 1989. Thanks for your understanding.

A. In my process, we already did discoloration analysis in tin plating line. We have some type of discoloration. A yellow discoloration came from plating chemical composition. Maybe additive too high. We contacted chemical maker to change plating bath composition, especially additive composition. Other yellowish discoloration come from back end operation. Plating chemical contain corrosive acid. If rinse/drag out not effective, acid will be trapped in plating pores. So must check rinse condition. Other type discoloration is black/brown. Maybe it come from bath composition, temperature of plating, agitation which related to current density. It also can be from drying system.

- Indonesia

A. Most likely you are not completely removing the tin plating solution because it is very difficult to remove. You cannot merely rinse it off. Take the freshly plated work back thru an alkali cleaner and then rinse again.

robert probert
Robert H Probert
Robert H Probert Technical Services
supporting advertiser
Garner, North Carolina

A. Have a 3 stage rinse after Plating Sn from MSA bath followed by Hot-10% TSP (trisodium phosphate [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]) dip, rinse and finally rinse with Hot DI water. This will help remove staining caused by tin plating solution.

Good Luck...

Karthik Thambidurai
electronic components - Norwood, Massachusetts

Q. Great information on the Tin Discoloration.

I have similar issues with discoloration (Yellow tint & black stains) on parts that Tin is plated on Copper surface.

However, the discoloration always appears 2,3,4,5 months after the production of the part. For this reason, I was wondering if anyone knows of a Highly Accelerated System Test (HAST) that I can run after the product is made to predict if the parts are going to fail later.

I would like to use the test as a LOT acceptance Test.

I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have.


Gus Mavrogiannis
- Orland Hills, Illinois

A. Well I am back with lots more experience now after posting my first question above.
The discoloration in our case is generally caused by different tin grain structures deposited on the Copper surface. Various factors, such as plating temp, additive content, bath age, and of course the stress level in the Copper, are all proven to be significant factors in one way or the other depending on different situations. One thing for sure is that immersion plating, including tin, is one of the most difficult processes in all circuit board/flex manufacturing.
Happy troubleshooting.

Peter [returning]
- Singapore

A. I think the copper base and plating tin over it will not work, because copper oxidizes and migrates copper on the surface and makes the tin surface discolor. It will fail solderability and it doesn't pass 85/85 test. If you want to make it work you must plate nickel over copper, it will stop copper from migration to surface. It will solve a lot of headache.If you want your process non-magnetic than you cannot use nickel, but you can use palladium to protect your copper and than plate tin over the palladium. The process on the palladium is not easy, if you know the technique you can make it work. Good Luck,

Duang Bouphasavanh
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Q. Hi, I am having brown coloration for Tin after passing on the reflow oven, does anybody know what can cause it?
Cleaning, thickness or what?

Ana Colaco
automotive - Brazil
December 6, 2011

April 13, 2019

Q. Hello, we did the immersion tin method after doing the electroplating process, but for some time we experienced a color change in the PAD / discoloration in the form of a white tick point on the surface of the PAD which had been electro-plating. Has anyone previously had a study of this phenomenon?

Eka ardianti
- Indonesia-asia tenggara

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